Daniel 4:1-37 - Seemingly Impossible Salvation
This chapter records the second of Nebuchadnezzar’s three dreams. Daniel interprets this dream also.
A. Introduction to Nebuchadnezzar’s Proclamation.
In our lives there may be people we think that there is no way that they could be saved. Chapter 4 of Daniel is a testimony of someone who you would think there is no way this guy would ever be saved. Nebuchadnezzar tells us the story of his conversion. During this study I want you to think of someone that you may have written off in your prayers thinking that there is no way this person is going to be saved.
This chapter is an official Babylonian document, written by the king himself. It is the story of his conversion. Keep in mind that it was written seven years after the experience itself, so that vv. 1-3 and 37 are Nebuchadnezzar’s public testimony of what God did to him and for him.
1. Nebuchadnezzar Praises the Most High God (v.1-3).
a) Declaring what God has done.
(1) This guy sounds like the apostle Paul or Peter here in the beginning of this chapter. Praising and proclaiming God’s signs and wonders.
(2) Note: this is written to all peoples, nations and languages, race color and creed that dwell on the earth. It is though he saying that “it’s his privilege to report to everybody the gracious miracles that God had done for him.”
(3) Nebuchadnezzar had been touched by the God of Wonders and cannot keep it in, so his desire is to tell everybody the great things that God has done for him.
(4) And if you have been touched by the God of Wonders you can’t but help tell the world the great things that God has done:
It is as though he is saying what Peter and John said in Acts 4:20, “For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard”, in other words “we cannot be quiet about our God!” "For the love of Christ compels us” (2 Corinthians 5:14, NKJV)
b) Declaring God’s everlasting kingdom (v.3).
(1) Now, in his first dream that was interpreted by Daniel, where he saw this image with the head of gold and chest of silver, stomach of brass, the interpretation of that dream was that though he was the head of gold his kingdom was to be replaced by an inferior kingdom of the Medes and the Persians.
(2) And, after a succession of world dominating empires, God would ultimately establish a kingdom that would never end, the reign of Jesus Christ. And, he saw this in the vision. And, it was interpreted for him by Daniel. And, yet though he acknowledge that there was no God like the God of Daniel that was able to reveal secrets and to tell dreams and so forth, yet it seemed that he did not truly in his heart submit to the interpretation of the dream because he wanted to feel that his kingdom was an everlasting kingdom. That his dominion was over all.
(3) Do you think that your kingdom is over all? Do you think that you can truly live your life the way that you want and it will never end?
Listen to what Jesus "Said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? " (Matthew 16:24-26, NASB95)
"Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?" (Matthew 16:24-26, The Message)
The way you see your life shapes your life.
c) Life on earth is a temporary assignment.
(1) Compared with eternity life is extremely brief.
Earth is a temporary residence, you won’t be here long, so don’t get too attached, Jesus said: "Beware! Don’t be greedy for what you don’t have. Real life is not measured by how much we own.” And he gave an illustration: “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. In fact, his barns were full to overflowing. So he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store everything. And I’ll sit back and say to myself, My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get it all?’ “Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God" (Luke 12:15-21, NLT)
We need to pray "Lord, help me to realize how brief my time on earth will be. Help me to know that I am here for but a moment more." (Psalm 39:4, The Living Bible)
James says that "You’re cheating on God. If all you want is your own way, flirting with the world every chance you get, you end up enemies of God and his way." (James 4:4, The Message)
Listen to what Paul says in 1 Corinthians "Those in frequent contact with the things of the world should make good use of them without becoming attached to them, for this world and all it contains will pass away." (1 Corinthians 7:31, NLT)
(2) So, in a declaration that his kingdom would be an everlasting kingdom, he built that huge image of gold, all gold, but now God has shown to him some signs and some wonders. These signs and wonders cause him to understand and to acknowledge that God’s kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, not mine. So, now he tells the story. These are the signs and the wonders that God showed to me to make me understand the fact that His kingdom is the everlasting kingdom.
2. At rest and flourishing (v.4).
a) A False Rest and False Security.
(1) Nebuchadnezzar was resting because he had conquered the world. He had led his armies into battle successfully and without fear.
(2) It was at a time of peace and prosperity that God sent this dream to the king, for this dream was really a divine warning to him that his sins were going to catch up with him at last.
There are those who have a false security: "I make this covenant and this oath, not with you alone, but with him who stands here with us today before the Lord our God, as well as with him who is not here with us today (for you know that we dwelt in the land of Egypt and that we came through the nations which you passed by, and you saw their abominations and their idols which were among them—wood and stone and silver and gold); so that there may not be among you man or woman or family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from the Lord our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations… and so it may not happen, when he hears the words of this curse, that he blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall have peace, even though I follow the dictates of my heart’— as though the drunkard could be included with the sober. “The Lord would not spare him; for then the anger of the Lord and His jealousy would burn against that man, and every curse that is written in this book would settle on him, and the Lord would blot out his name from under heaven." (Deuteronomy 29:14-20, NKJV)
The writer of proverbs says "There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death" (Proverbs 14:12, NKJV)
3. God Interrupted His Rest (v.5).
a) His thoughts and dreams were troubling and upsetting him.
(1) The person that you think right now is so closed to responding to the Gospel is in reality like Nebuchadnezzar. Either going through presently or will be eventually facing internal struggle and troubles.
(2) It is when this wicked world is resting in “peace and safety” that God’s judgment will fall (1 Thes. 5:3). The only true safety and rest is in Jesus Christ.
(3) In verse 8, Nebuchadnezzar clearly says that Bel is my god, not the Lord God. What he had saw previously with Daniel and the three Hebrew young men was enough to impress him, but not enough to convert him.
4. Not learning the lesson (v.6-9).
a) The summoning of the wise men (v.6-7.
(1) Remember their boast in chapter 2: “Show us the dream and we will explain it.” Well, the king did show them this dream but they could not explain it.
(2) The worldly-wise make their boast of great wisdom, but they cannot understand or explain the things of God
Remember what Paul said, that "The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one." (1 Corinthians 2:14-15, NKJV)
b) The summoning of Daniel (v.8-9).
(1) Now, why didn't he call him first, because Daniel was the one who was able to tell him the dream and give him the interpretation.
(2) Nebuchadnezzar acknowledges that in Daniel is the Spirit of the holy God.
(3) How did he know this? Daniel was a man of God, and he lived a life of holiness. A life of prayer, a life of commitment unto the Lord.
(4) He lived such a clean good life, that when some men were conspiring to get him, looking for some kind of flaw so that they might accuse him before the king, they realize they can not find anything against Daniel. He is such a pure man. In him is the Spirit of the holy God.
(5) Now, we just assume always that gods are holy, don't we? Because our God is so holy. One of the main characteristics of God is His holiness, but that is not so of pagan gods.
(6) Pagans gods were not holy at all. Read of the Greek gods and all and there was nothing holy about those gods. They were licentious. They were always lusting after different women and different things. So, the idea of a holy God is rather exclusive to Judaism and the Christianity. And, you do not find that as a characteristic of pagan gods, but often times the pagan gods are pictures as quite licentious and lascivious.
B. The Dream (v.10-17)
1. The Calling of Daniel (v.18).
a) Nebuchadnezzar calls upon Daniel for an interpretation of the dream.
(1) Though Nebuchadnezzar readily recognizes Daniel as a man filled with the Spirit of the Holy God, he himself has not yet yielded to the Holy God.
2. Daniel explains the rise and coming fall of Nebuchadnezzar (v.19-26).
a) Daniel was astonished (v.19)
(1) Daniel genuinely cared for Nebuchadnezzar, and was clearly affected by the meaning of the dream.
(2) Daniel was a faithful servant, even serving the pagan kingdom.
(3) The Bible tells us that what ever we do in word in deed, we should do all for the glory of God. We should serve in our places as unto the Lord realizing that God has put me here & that my life will be a witness for God here.
(4) As Christians have an obligation to maintain our Christian witness wherever we might be and being the most diligent, the most faithful of all of the employees as a testimony and as a witness for Jesus Christ. Daniel was such!
b) Daniel gives the interpretation (v.20-25).
(1) He applies the point without ambiguity; “It is you, O king”; much like Nathan’s statement, You are the man! (2 Samuel 12:7).
(2) However, he says it with tenderness as:
Listen to how Ezra responds when he hears about the sins of the people: "When these things were done, the leaders came to me, saying, “The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands, with respect to the abominations of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. For they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, so that the holy seed is mixed with the peoples of those lands. Indeed, the hand of the leaders and rulers has been foremost in this trespass.” So when I heard this thing, I tore my garment and my robe, and plucked out some of the hair of my head and beard, and sat down astonished. Then everyone who trembled at the words of the God of Israel assembled to me, because of the transgression of those who had been carried away captive, and I sat astonished until the evening sacrifice." (Ezra 9:1-4, NKJV)
Jesus Himself was astonished at the sin of Jerusalem: He wept over them
(3) Something I find astonishing is that almost all the references for the word astonish in the New Testament were in reference to Jesus either at His sayings (Matt.7:28), His Words, for they were spoken with authority (Luke 4:32), His teaching and wisdom (Matt.13:54; 22:33; Mark 1:22), His signs and wonderful miracles (Mark 7:37), people who wanted to kill Him, feared Him because all the people were astonished at His teaching (Mark 11:18).
(4) 1st Point in Case: you want to be astonishing to other people, speak the words, act like, and live like Jesus!
(5) 2nd Point in Case: people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
(6) When Daniel explained verse 25 to Nebuchadnezzar, the king probably couldn’t have guessed just how literally it would be fulfilled.
3. A chance to repent (v.27)
a) Daniel, a good preacher, presses home the application: repent; perhaps it is not too late.
(1) The right reaction to the threat of judgment is a humble repentance, something that Nebuchadnezzar did not do.
(2) One of the worst sins is that of pride. It is one of those that is spoken of as one of the deadly sins. The origin of sin originates with pride:
The writer of Proverbs says "There are six things which the Lord hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that run rapidly to evil, A false witness who utters lies, And one who spreads strife among brothers. " (Proverbs 6:16-19, NASB95)
(3) When Satan lifted up himself against the rule of God, it was pride. I will exalt my throne above the stars of heaven. I will sit in the congregations in the sides of the north. I will ascend above the stars. I will be like the most high. Pride is the root of most sin. So, he says to put away your sin and your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor.
(4) The repentance of Nineveh at the preaching of Jonah is a good example of radical repentance in light of a warning of judgment (Jonah 3).
b) God Gave Nebuchadnezzar time to repent (v.28-30).
(1) God gave Nebuchadnezzar twelve months to repent, and he had probably forgotten about the dream during that time - but God didn’t forget.
Jesus said "I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” And He began telling this parable: “A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. “And he said to the vineyard-keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’ “And he answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.’ ”" (Luke 13:5-9, NASB95)
Peter message was "Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19 NKJV)
4. Nebuchadnezzar Repents and Praises God (v.34-37)
1. Some have found prophetic significance in this story.
a. Since “Babylon” is used in the scriptures as a figure of the world system at large, Nebuchadnezzar’s madness foreshadows the madness of Gentile nations in their rejection of God; his fall typifies Jesus’ judgment of the nations; and his restoration foreshadows the restoring of some of these nations in the millennial kingdom.
2. The abiding lesson: God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).
a. There have been many who have risen from humble origins to great glory, and then have fallen. I think that it would be better to have never been raised up than to be raised up and then fall!
b. Most, if not all, fall through pride; and a proud look is number one on the list of God’s most hated sins (Proverbs 6:16-19).
3. God will glorify himself among the nations.
a. When Nebuchadnezzar took some of the treasures of the Jerusalem temple and put them in the temples of his gods, he had reason to believe that his gods were stronger than the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. By the end of Daniel 4, God has shown Nebuchadnezzar which God is the true God.
b. When Nebuchadnezzar knew it, he wasn’t shy about telling people what he had learned - he was a true witness, giving testimony to God’s great works.
The Tenderness and Honesty of Daniel
Daniel gave Nebuchadnezzar the interpretation but also gave him the solution: repent
We need to be, in our witnessing, caring enough to confront.
The Stubbornness and Stupidity of Neb (v.28)
While the word was in the king's mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee. And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass like the oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will. God reigns! God is sovereign! I get comfort in this, because as I look at the worlds conditions tonight, I get very upset. I am disturbed. I have little grandchildren growing up and I read of the things that are being taught the children in the schools today. I look at the social trends. I look at the world in which we are living, a world that has no conscience of evil. I look at the sexual promiscuity and all of the resultant devastation, plagues that have come from sexual promiscuity. I read of the abortions, and our President declaring that he is going to push federal actions to guarantee a woman's right for abortions, so that states will not be able to enact laws that would in any wise restrict the woman's right for abortions. I read how the President declares that he is going to be helping to promote laws that will give favored positions to the homosexual communities, giving them privileges that we, normal people, do not have, protecting them in jobs and housing and all. These things trouble me. The rise of the worship of Satan is alarming. And these things are being promoted by the rock groups, by television, and these things concern me. The only comfort that I have is that I know that God rules, and that God is in control and that He allows even the basis of men to get positions of authority and power in order that he might manifest His righteous judgment. But, when He judges it will be righteous. And, thus He will not judge the righteous with the wicked, that was the whole issue with Abraham, when the angels were going down to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham's question was shall not the Lord of the earth be just, would you destroy the righteous with the wicked. There are fifty righteous people in that city. Would you destroy the righteous with the wicked? Would that be fair? And the Lord assured him if he could find fifty righteous they would spare the city. Finally, he worked it down to ten righteous. And, when he came down to the city of Sodom they could not find ten righteous. There was only that righteous man Lot, who was vexed. His righteous spirit was vexed by the things that were going on in Sodom, just like your righteous spirit gets vexed when you see the television promoting the gay pride parades around the country. It vexes my righteous spirit. But, it was comforting to realize that the angel said to Lot, "get out of here. We can't destroy this place until you are gone." And as I see the same conditions that existed in Sodom, existing here. And, I see this flood tide of evil taking over, my comfort is that God rules and God is just and that He will deliver the righteous before his judgment falls. And, I can not believe that we are very far away from that day of God's righteous judgment. And, I do believe the only reason why the Lord has not already begun is that God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. And, He is leaving open the door a few more days in order that those who are ordained to salvation might come in. And, I rejoice that in the midst of a world that is on the fast track down, where sin abounds, grace overflows. And, we are seeing that marvelous work of God's grace, and what a contrast we are in the world today. I have never seen so many people come to Christ, and on the other hand, I have never seen conditions worst. But, God rules, that I know. I have comfort in that.
I was interested as I read this. I saw a picture of Howard Hughes before he died. A man who really had just about everything that the world could offer, but I saw a picture of him and his scraggly matted hair, his long talon like finger nails, and that paranoia that he had, not wanting to see people, not wanting people to see him. He wore gloves trying to be so sanitary, afraid to touch anything. And, with everything he had, he was imprisoned in his own mind and by his own mind and by his own surroundings. I thought of all those people that wanted to be like Howard Hughes, and you think, oh.my. Here he was Nebuchadnezzar bereft of his senses, living out in the field like an animal, at night his body covered with the dew of heaven, eating grass.